Friday, 17 December 2010

Top of the Scots 2010: Raise the Red Flag

So yesterday I cast my votes for the best books of the year, and far and away the most common reaction to my choices was... surprise.

Not exactly what I'd hoped for, but oh well. I'll take what I can get.

But why surprise? Well, as per certain suggestions made on Twitter and in the comments here on TSS, in selecting my five favourites I seemed - to some - to have rather forsaken fantasy and sci-fi. Once and again, the notion that four out of the very five could most easily be classified as "horror" novels was levelled at me.

For a second, let's forget the fact that there seem to be a league of people unnaturally keen to decry me for supposedly disparaging SF&F. Let's put to one side that my number one book of the year - The Habitation of the Blessed by Cat Valente - is riddled through and through with the fantastic, while my runners-up included a typically genre-straddling China Mieville novel about a squid cult and Charlie Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.  

Let's not stress about any of that, because you know what? Those folks, they were right. They are right. From The Passage to The Reapers Are The Angels, and from Mr Shivers to Joe Hill's Horns - the horror genre seems shockingly predominant in my run-down of the best fiction of 2010.

As to that, I was as taken aback as any of those readers that made the connection. I simply hadn't thought to go through my selections with an eye to properly representing each genre of fiction I read with any regularity. What I did was hmm and hah for a few weeks about which of the 80-odd books I've gobbled up this year I most remember, and then remembered most fondly. I re-read bits and pieces of those that made the first cut, went through my reviews, had a drink and a good think. And then... well, all that horror happened.

Now I'll stand by my list till the end of time. I had to make a couple of tough choices, but at the end of the day, those are my favourite books of the year, and that's that.

I don't hate science fiction. I certainly don't despise fantasy.

I mean, no more so than I'm a hulking great misogynist. After all, four of my five favourite books were written by men. Men! And evidently I'm dead set against the British writer - not to speak of the European or the Eastern - because all five of my selections were by American authors! Truly, I am aghast.

You see what I'm getting at?

In short, then: the fact that four of the five best books of 2010 - according to me - are horror novels is for my money nothing more than an incidental factor. That they fit neatly into that genre is neither why I read them nor, resolutely, why I loved them. I read widely, and I read a lot. Everything's fair game. It just so happened. And I'm perfectly alright that it did.


  1. I don't see what the big deal is. You like books that turn out to be horror so what? You run a great blog, you can't be expected to like or choose books that other people feel you should like. After all it is your blog and you're free to write and choose what feels right to you.

  2. Wait...Habitations of the Blessed's horror now? Erm, how? If the NUMBER ONE book is a fantasy novel, that seems to rather invalidate any "Speculative scots hate fantasy!" claims, doesn't it? And besides, you've given high praise to quite a bit of SFF this year, as well as considering Under Heaven your glaring oversight. Not exactly a hater's attitude.

  3. This blog is obviously all about horror books, just look at the picture up at the top: vultures circling a dead body next to a tree, brrr that's terrifying!

    Seriously though, I tried many of them but I think this is the best speculative fiction blog on the web, perfect for cultured readers who like to mix up their reading with a bit of SF, fantasy and horror (the three different shades of the fantastical imagination).

    Niall's talent is enviable - I wish my blog posts were even half as good - so any perceived slight or bias is bound to be jumped on veraciously: glaring peer review is the price you pay for being the best.

    "Mr. Shivers" was still a bag of dusty shite though, how could you get that so wrong? :p